Father’s Road by Ji-yun Jang, illustrated by Tan Jun, edited by Joy Cowley (9780802854728)
Released March 30, 2017.
Wong Chung is excited to join his father on the Silk Road as they travel west to sell silk in Constantinople. There are many dangers on the trip and new skills to learn. Traveling on camels, they have to brave the desert and conserve water along the way. Wong Chung learned to cover his face against the blowing sand and find water and even food along the way in unexpected places. Then just as the journey was nearing its end, bandits attack them and kidnap them, stealing their silk. A sandstorm hits the bandit camp and Wong Chung makes a decision that will decide their fate one way or another.
This picture book about the Silk Road transports readers into the harsh terrain and the harrowing journey that used to be the way that trade was done. Through the eyes of Wong Chung, readers learn about the dangers and the wonders of the trail. They also grow to understand the importance of honor and duty in the culture.
Textured papers form the background of the illustrations, offering colors of sand, red mountains and occasional green. Drawn in fine lines, the illustrations of the camels and people meld with the setting to form a unified whole. There is a lovely organic quality to the entire book, drawing readers further into the desert journey.
Part of the Trade Winds series, this picture book is a glimpse into a bygone time of hardship and adventure. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
A Single Pebble by Bonnie Christensen
Mei wished that she could travel to the market with her father, but she had to stay behind and care for their silk worms. So Mei gave her father a jade pebble to take along and give to a child at the end of the Silk Road. Though her father was only traveling part of the road, Mei was sure that her pebble could go all the way to the end. Mei’s father gave the pebble to a traveling monk who was heading further west on the road. The monk in turn gave the pebble and his flute to a young man who was going even farther west. And so the pebble headed west from hand to hand and other objects joined it in a collection from “a girl in the land where the sun rises.” Finally, after many hands and many people had cared for the pebble, it reached the hands of a young pirate who returned home to his family. His son in Italy received that pebble at the same time that Mei got a piece of blue glass that their city in Italy specialized in.
Set in the 9th century, this book pays homage to the various peoples and communities, nationalities and religions along the Silk Road. Readers will get a great sense of the length of this trading route thanks to Christensen’s story that makes it very concrete and connected. The book also celebrates a good story, where the gifts multiply and all because the story surrounding them becomes more and more compelling as the pebble moves farther from home.
Christensen’s art changes throughout the book. The early pages are softened by the watercolor river and hazy trees in the backgrounds. Moving further into the book, the images become more crisp and clear as the desert takes over the story. The softness returns in Italy again with a different light than the one in China. It is all delicately done and evokes both a connection between the two places but also real differences too.
A rousing journey of a book, this story is a celebration of the Silk Road. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.